Though they follow similar processes, console and PC game development have many distinct differences. Rather than one platform being necessarily more challenging to develop games for than the other, each has unique intricacies that can become obstacles for unprepared development teams.
From technical and hardware differences to different approaches to UI and input design, console and PC game development have more specific development considerations than it seems on the surface. At Magic Media, we’re experts in game development across all platforms. Our wealth of experience has taught us the best approach to developing games regardless of platform, including best practices for console and PC game development.
From a hardware perspective, PCs and consoles are very different platforms for developing games. Console game development benefits from the standardized hardware for consoles, meaning that every PlayStation 5 has the same capabilities as the next PS5. This can provide a highly stable development environment for console game development, with developers fully understanding the chosen platforms for their games.
PC game development is different due to the sheer breadth of choice available for PC builds. Players have a lot of choice when it comes to internal components of PCs. These include choices such as CPU, GPU, RAM, and much more. Beyond that, there’s even the choice of brand for the CPU and GPU, which offer different levels of support and optimization. This means that PC game developers need to be aware of the many different PCs out there, their price points, and performance levels. In PC game development, this could mean spending more time testing your game to ensure its performance is as smooth and satisfactory across a range of PCs and their different internal components.
One of the major differences between console and PC game development is how they’re controlled. Games consoles are limited to traditional controllers featuring sticks, face buttons, and triggers. Though comfortable, game controllers tend to be more limited compared to the freedom that keyboard and mouse setups on PCs have.
Console game developers have nonetheless found interesting ways to combat the relative lack of freedom while using controllers. It’s commonplace in RPGs like Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Pillars of Eternity for developers to create radial menus to access character abilities, whereas on PC they’re accessible with a single key press or a click.
Using a mouse and keyboard setup provides players with more freedom. This is due to the sheer number of buttons and actions that can be accomplished with a mouse and keyboard, but also, many PC game developers include support for shortcuts in their games, allowing players to perform in-game actions easily, streamlining gameplay. Despite this, controllers are regularly supported on PC games, and some titles, such as the Dark Souls games, are recommended to be played with a controller rather than a keyboard and mouse setup.
Distributing your game and getting it into players’ hands is a critical aspect of the development process to understand and master. Both PC and console games have different considerations for making your game available that could pose challenges.
Getting your game certified on its target platforms is a paramount concern. On PC, there is no centralized system for game certification, but developers must adhere to the guidelines set out by the distribution platforms they hope to work with. There are many storefronts developers can choose to work with to release their game, among the most popular are Steam, Epic Games Store, and GOG. There is no singular process in use among these distributors, and developers should endeavor to comply with their guidelines and standardization checks as closely as possible.
Console game development has a slightly different process. Digital distribution is handled by console manufacturers, so PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo each have their distinct storefronts. Like PC game distributors, they have their guidelines and standards for releasing games, which could be considered more stringent than PC counterparts. Consoles will generally have more guidelines around using platform-specific features, performance, and overall technical stability. Though these policies are arguably more rigorous, they tend to help ensure high-quality gaming experiences across the board.
Magic Media is a veteran services provider in the gaming, entertainment, and tech spaces. We’re proud to offer dozens of services including but not limited to full-cycle game development, real-time VFX, game trailer production, and more, to help your projects fulfill their greatest potential. Get in contact today, and let’s create magic!